Multi-Tasking lessons #1 – Dictogloss

I’ve touched upon the (wonderful) dictogloss before in my post about lesson structures for teachers here , but how is this a multi-skilled lesson, and how does it help prepare students for “real life English”?

  1. Lesson Procedure

The class starts, as most do, with a discussion that introduces the topic (“Activate schemata” or “Engage”). The teacher then explains that they are going to read a text, while the students just listen. On the second reading, they can make notes and then try to reconstruct the text using their notes and existing knowledge of grammar, collocation and discourse. They can do this in groups or alone. Once the text has been reconstructed to the limit of the students’ abilities, the teacher can provide a model.

It’s a very simple lesson structure!

2. Variations / Tweaks

Here are a few variations that I’ve used / seen used in classes.

  • Listening for types – students are only allowed to note down specific types of word. These could be nouns, verbs, adjectives, or “grammar words” – this means that they are reconstructing specific areas of language
  • Robot Teacher – the teacher can repeat the text multiple times, but the students dictate speed and repetition by using the instructions “Stop”, “Repeat from X”, “Spell X” and “Repeat Slowly from X” – this weights the exercise more in favour of listening and less in favour of grammar / vocabulary knowledge
  • Lecture – students record the teacher reading the first dictogloss, and then put headphones in and assume control of the recording in order to reconstruct. They can do this alone or in groups. Again, this is more focussed on listening, but is also incorporating skills required to attend and digest lectures – very useful for students intending to study at British universities.

3. Integrated skills / multi-tasking

  • Listening and writing – mainly through note-taking, but if students are reconstructing in groups, they may dictate their own work verbatim to other students. Note-taking as a skill is useful for meetings and lectures, but also directly helps preparation for exam listening (IELTS and FCE, for example).
  • Listening and speaking – if you use the robot teacher variation, students have to be able to give instructions while listening, at the correct point in order to successfully facilitate task completion.
  • Learner Training – if using the “lecture” method

Is this the finest example of a multi-tasking lesson? It’s certainly one of the favourites. I’d like to hear from people who use further variations.




An Introduction to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning

What is Bloom’s Taxonomy?

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of educational objectives, separated in to cognitive, affective and psychomotor – as below.

Bloom's Rose

(See for more charts)

The chairman of the group of educators that conceived it was called Benjamin Bloom. The simplified pyramid below refers to the cognitive skills, and demonstrates the progression of thinking skills from lower order (remembering, understanding) to higher order (applying, analysing, evaluating, creating).

Bloom's New Pyramid

Looking at a range of controlled practice activities (eg gap fills) or reading / listening comprehension activities, they tend to focus more on remembering and understanding, which is a good start. However, if you progress directly to a creative activity, you may have jumped too far, too quickly. The pyramid provides you with the opportunity to take a step-by-step approach in the classroom, as well as clearly see areas where students excel or lack.

Example questions, based on a class about apples:

Remembering: What are the health benefits of eating apples? (Recalling facts, exhibiting knowledge)
Understanding: Compare the health benefits of eating apples v eating oranges. (Demonstrate understanding by comparing or interpreting)
Applying: What kinds of apples are best for baking a pie, and why? (Applying knowledge and facts)
Analysing: List four ways of serving foods made with apples and explain which ones have the highest health benefits. Provide references to support your statements. (Inferring, finding evidence and supporting generalisations)
Evaluating: Do you feel that serving apple pie for an after school snack for children is healthy? (Present and defend opinions)
Creating: Convert an “unhealthy” recipe for apple pie to a “healthy” recipe by replacing your choice of ingredients. Explain the health benefits of using the ingredients you chose vs. the original ones. (Remodel and combine existing information / learning to make something new)

How can I teach this in the classroom?

Through questioning. You can use and adapt the questions that you will find on the staff room wall. Through open questions, students are required to communicate, express themselves and exhibit a higher level of understanding and interaction with the language.

  • Add some critical thinking questions to your lessons after students have displayed initial comprehension, work on their responses and then give them the chance to respond again to these questions in their progress tests.
  • Differentiate your classes by responding to students that finish a task quickly with a question one ‘step’ further up the pyramid. Refer to the poster directly and record their achievement on the student achievement sheet.
  • Get some discussion going, by setting up debates, organising groupwork, looking at some problems, or using some ideas from this toolkit Challenge Toolkit– some of which are elaborated on more on this site.

I have been undertaking some studies on students’ responses to activities such as these in classrooms – have a look at some of the other links on the site for more information.